Sunday, July 31, 2016

Taking A Sunday Drive #39

The first time we visited California was in 2003. We followed I-80 almost all the way to San Francisco, leaving it to drive through Napa Valley once we got past Sacramento. There was a snow storm in the Northern Sierra Nevadas as we came through Donner Pass. Snow and slick roads weren't what I was expecting in California, I was glad to get down to the valley areas of Napa and Sonoma as well as getting off the craziness of I-80. Those vineyards were a peaceful and welcome sight.

Our son Mark had moved to Oakland and then across the bay to San Francisco. It was great to be with him and have him show us around. We did many of the usual touristy things, Ghirardelli Square, where Mark and Bud are pictured drinking coffee, above, Fisherman's Wharf, Coit Tower, Chinatown.....

....a boat trip over to Alcatraz Island and a self-guided audio tour of the famous prison, known as "The Rock".

Mark and I at Levi Square Park. We didn't ride a cable car while there, but we did ride the BART. We went to Ocean Beach and saw the Cliff House and the Sutro Baths Ruins. We ate in Chinatown, the Mission District and at The Stinking Rose. We crossed the Golden Gate Bridge twice, but mostly we enjoyed being with our son.

After leaving him and San Francisco, we headed north toward our daughter in Oregon, taking time to drive through the famous Redwoods and Chandler Tree - just as my grandparents had done fifty years before.

The second trip to California in 2006 saw us reversing the order, coming from Oregon down the coast to Santa Rosa, again to see Mark, this time for his wedding.

Me playing in the Russian River near Guerneville.


Seals on Goat Rock Beach at the Russian River estuary near Jenner.

Back in 2010, this time in Southern California along I-8 which paralleled the border fence with Mexico much of the route.

 Bud on the beach with the Coronado Hotel in the background.

Coronado Beach looked as though it was flecked in gold. It was beautiful. We also went to Imperial Beach.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull? I think I could happily live near an ocean or sea. I don't think I would ever tire of hearing the susurration of the waves or watching the light change over the water.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

July Book List

Nine books read in July which isn't bad considering we had company for one week and Christmas in July to ready for and attend. It was a month of good reads - three 4.5's, three 3.5's and one each of 4.0, 3.0 and 2.5.

The lowest rated was the Mary Higgins Clark, I Heard That Song Before, which I read because it was so close to the number one song the year I was born - I've Heard That Song Before. I thought the book might be about that song, but it never did really say what song the title was a reference to. It was just an o.k. mystery written to appeal to the masses without any memorable content; too pedestrian for me.

I added Tatiana De Rosnay to my authors to be read list after seeing her name in the appreciation remarks in another book I liked. The House I Loved is my 3.0 rating this month. It is set in Paris in the 1860's when great swaths of the city were being leveled in order to make room for the wide boulevards of Haussmann's  'new Paris'.
The story recounts the life of a 60-year-old widow who chooses to die in the rubble of her home rather than leave it. It was interesting to read about the neighborhoods of old Paris, yet I felt the ending was, h-m-m, 'iffy'?

My one 4.0 was Jacquelyn Mitchard's The Theory of Relativity. I've been reading my way through her books since discovering her as a new, to me, author. This one is my favorite so far.  A couple dies in a car accident and the two families fight for custody of the 1-year-old daughter they leave behind. Because the mother was adopted and the state law favors 'blood' relatives, the mother's brother, also adoped, is kept from adopting his niece as his sister wanted. His family fights and wins to have the state law changed but it is years before the little girl is finally no longer the ball being fought for in a game and the two families work out their differences. I could only think of how she was affected by having her loved ones fight over her. ALSO how I hope my grandchildren have wills addressing who they want raising their little ones in case something happens to them - something young parents always think won't happen. Also, I'm not certain, but I think the whole 'getting the state law changed regarding blood relatives' probably really happened.

Jacquelyn Mitchard is also the author of two of my 3.5 reads this month: No Time To Wave Goodbye which has the same characters from two of her previous books about the family whose son was kidnapped and then returned years later.
In this one, that son has married and has a little girl of his own. His family all goes to Los Angeles for the Academy Awards when his older brother is nominated in the documentary category for the movie he made about missing children. While the family is watching as older brother wins the award, his little niece is kidnapped.
This book was very good, but using another kidnapping to finally bring the emotionally damaged family back together seemed too contrived, not believable.

I liked Mitchard's The Most Wanted, a little better. A 14-year-old girl being raised by an indifferent mother is talked into writing to an inmate by her girlfriend. She falls in love with the prisoner who is twice her age. Her mother consents to letting them marry but the girl has to go to court to get her rights to a conjugal visit enforced. She ends up pregnant and the lawyer who helped her becomes a de facto mother to her and the baby. An interesting story about love, second chances and what constitutes a family.

The third 3.5 is another De Rosnay novel, A Secret Kept. Again about a Parisian family, one that vacations on the Island of Noirmontier until the mother dies at a young age after becoming involved in an affair. The father remarries, the children grow up and go back to the island for the sister's 40th birthday. Old memories resurface and the siblings begin investigating what really happened to their mother. A good story about love, loss and self-healing.

Laurie R. King is always going to get a 4 or higher from me. Her writing is smart, entertaining and thought provoking. I love her Mary Russell series of which Locked Rooms is #8 and one of the best.
Mary and Sherlock Holmes go to San Francisco to finally close her parents' estates, sell the house, etc. But Mary begins having nightmares and even though she denies having been in the city at the time of the great earthquake, Holmes discovers that she was. She has buried her memories due to the trauma of the quake's destruction and the deaths of her parents and little brother. When someone tries to kill her it becomes imperative that she remember the past in order to move on with her own life. This was one of my 4.5's.

This may be the first Kristin Hannah novel I've read but it won't be my last. The Nightingale is one of those impossibly hard to read but can't put down books. It is about the French Resistance during WWII. Two sisters fight the war each in her own way. Beautiful. Sad. Makes one realize how easy her own life has been. "Wounds heal. Love lasts. We remain." 4.5 rating. (I had just finished reading this book when I learned that Elie Wiesel had died at age 87.)

My final July read is also a 4.5. It is a book brought to me by my daughter and not one I would ordinarily read because I do not like dystopian stories. But she thought I would like it and she was right. Set in the region of the Great Lakes after 99.9% of earth's population has died from a virulent strain of the flu, I found reading it quite disturbing because I already think about such a thing happening. But the book is beautifully written with all the story lines artfully brought together. Station Eleven is Emily St. John Mandel's fourth book and I hope to read her first three.
My daughter does a much better job reviewing books than I. Please go here to read her review of Station Eleven.
As disturbing as the novel is, it is also hopeful and it does make one stop and think about all we take for granted in our lives - fresh water at the turn of a tap, plentiful food at the nearest store, a comfortable bed, medicines, transportation, adequate shelter - loved ones.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Recapping Our 2nd Christmas In July

When Katrina and Brad offered to host our Second Annual Christmas In July at Cutty's Campground near Des Moines, we did not know we weren't going to be the only ones celebrating the holiday - the entire campground was holding Christmas in July. That explains the presence of Santa and Mrs. Clause in this photo with Kari. Kari & Ken were the first to arrive at the building we were using which was just being vacated by children who had been there for a party with the Clause's.

What makes having our Christmas in July a success is that more of our children and grandchildren are able to attend than they could in December. Once again daughter Kari & son-in-law Ken made the long trek across country from Oregon, arriving Tuesday evening. Yes, we still have the sign Bud made for Ken six years ago when he said we live in 'the middle of nowhere'.

Kari may not have been able to convince Ken to come to Iowa two years in a row if our holiday hadn't been the same weekend as his Mom's 80th birthday celebration the next day in Minneapolis. Pictured are Ken, his mom, Lou, and brother, Cal.

Bud's son, Mark, and his partner, Juliet, even flew in from New York City just for the weekend which added to our holiday joy immensely! Let the fun begin.

Somehow I missed getting a picture of my granddaughter, Katrina, our hostess - probably because she was too busy flitting around getting everything ready. But I did get a picture of co-host, Brad (in orange shirt). Their membership at Cutty's made for a lovely, central location for us.
Also in photo from left, grandson, Brock, Bud's shoulder with great-grandsons, Nick & Rodney's heads, grandson, Ki, standing, nephew, Andrew, at the table with Brad. Then at table in foreground, my brother, Ron, (Andrew's dad), son Doug and his wife, Shelly's back.
It was so nice to have Andrew for the second year and my brother Ron for the first time. Younger brother, Les and wife, Susan weren't able to join us this year.

After lunch we played the game - carrying on the tradition of our Christmases at Mom's for so many years. Andrew had the misfortune of having #1 - the first two gifts he chose were immediately stolen. First a hammock, which was re-gifted from last year, along with a cooler and some craft ale.

And the second this guitar made by my son, Douglas. He makes many from cigar boxes, but this one was made from a candy tin.

Close-up of vintage 'Mrs. Steven's Home Made Candies' tin - seasonally appropriate. (One of Doug's most recent guitars features an Iowa license plate.)

Juliet was thrilled when she opened a gift containing skull measuring cups and spoons. Everyone ooh-ed and aah-ed, but no one stole them from her. Possibly because they could see how much she liked them, but, as several told her later, this was her first experience with our extended family and the first time she had ever played the game. They were being nice to her - NEXT YEAR, no quarter! (Remember Lily, Great-grandpa Bud and the squirt gun last year?) [By the way, we really missed Lily and her mom and dad (Alyssa & Evan) this year.] (Granddaughters Dominique, left and Deise, right in the pink shirts in the background.)

While some played the game, others chose the cool of the pool. Great-grandson, Rodney in the blue ring, granddaughter, Dominique with her mom, Shalea and grandson Greyson (our great-grandson).

Me with grandson, Ki, his mom, Shalea, and Ki's boys, Ayden between us and Greyson in Grandma Shalea's arms, leaving the pool.

While the smart ones cooled off in the pool, a number of others thought playing miniature golf in 105 degree heat indices was a good idea. Left to right, Doug, his son, Zach, Juliet (keeping the sun off with an umbrella) and Mark. Also golfing, but not in the picture, were Bud and Andrew.

The day ended with some traveling home while others stayed overnight in rental cabins at the campground.

The next day saw Shelly and Doug, his cousin Andrew and son, Nicholas kayaking the Raccoon River. Andrew's totem, Ted the Buffalo, is a constant in many of his adventures. It looks like a great way to end the family weekend, doesn't it?

A few more of my favorite pics:

With great-grandsons Sawyer and Jack (Brock & Paullina's boys). Their Grandpa Douglas is in background. This is inside one of the rental cabins.

Also like this one of me with great-grandson, Ayden, taken by Kari.

Cousins Sawyer and Rodney on their way to the party.

Aunt Kari, Ki and Greyson apres swim.

Grandpa Doug soothing Jack to sleep by rubbing his back - the same way my Mom put him to sleep when he was Jack's age.

Lastly, a photo I love of me and Great-grandson, Rodney. There was one final gift at the end of our Christmas in July party - Brad and Katrina announced that Rodney is going to become a big brother in March! I'm so excited - and thinking pink!!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Taking A Sunday Drive #38

With two of our kids living on the West Coast, it was plenty of incentive to head that way ourselves. Besides, I had dreamed of seeing San Francisco for thirty-five years. So after a few days there with son, Mark, we headed on up to Oregon to visit daughter, Kari and her partner, Ken, in Portland.
2003 - Our first trip to Oregon had to include a trip to the ocean. Hug Point State Park between Arch Cape and Cannon Beach was their favorite which is where these photos were taken.



 Ken and Kari in the cave at Hug Point.








Me at the waterfall.




Bud and I on the beach. We had intended to just wade up to our ankles but a wave caught us unaware and soaked us to our knees.

Portland's Saturday Market in the downtown area gave us the opportunity to try the Benson Bubblers, the city's iconic bronze drinking fountains.

We followed the scenic Historic Columbia River Highway when we left Portland, stopping at some of the many waterfalls along the way. This is me at Oregon's tallest, Multnomah Falls.

Overlooking the Columbia River. To the middle right of the photo you can see the Vista House at Crown Point built in 1918.

In 2006, we reversed the order and went to Oregon first and then to California.

Kari had told us we 'must see Crater Lake' which is where this picture was taken at our first stop to look over the rim to the lake below. There was still snow on the ground in July. Kari was right, Crater Lake National Park is a must see.

The Rogue River in Southwest Oregon has some of the most beautiful rugged scenery. I was totally captivated by this area where we stopped for awhile before entering California.

The Autumn of 2014 found us on the road west again as we journeyed to Portland for the open house at Kari & Ken's new home. I have blogged about this trip before......

....it's the one where I met another Ramona at the Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden in Grant Park.

I did fly to Portland by myself a couple of times, but our preference is always to drive. Hopefully we will be able to do that another time or two.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Chances "R" There's A Restaurant



Sunday my daughter and son-in-law set out on the three day trip from Portland, OR to drive to Iowa to visit us and attend our family's Christmas in July. West of Lincoln, NE, they saw a sign for the Chances "R" Restaurant and Lounge in York, NE. Ken said, "We've got to go there."

It is a sign I have seen many times over the years, but I never took the time to drive the few miles off I-80 to check it out. It has always been one of those stops I was going to make .... someday.

The above photo is of the beautiful window in the restaurant door. The hostess offered to seat Kari & Ken when they walked in, but they explained they weren't there to eat, but that their Mom had a blog titled Chances R and they just had to stop and check out the restaurant for me.


The hostess could not have been any nicer. She gave them copies of their brochure, menu and a post card. I love all the stained glass in the 'Hob Nob Lounge' - the bottom photo on the post card.
From the brochure: "It's a Tradition - For over 40 years, this family owned restaurant has steadfastly upheld a tradition for outstanding cuisine and modest prices. If you're in the area for business, vacation or "just passin' through," visit us for a delightful dining experience and "Chances R" you'll return again."


I've already put this spot on my destination list for the next time we are headed that way. I've been studying the menu trying to decide what I'll order when I get there. For sure a salad with one of their "R" Homemade Salad Dressings, probably the Bleu Cheese, and a Big "R" Burger or a Chances "R" Club. I know I wouldn't have room for a "Final Fling", but I could always get my Cheesecake 'to go'.

Chances are this restaurant was named for the same reason I chose my blog title - because of a first or last name beginning with R and that the idiom chances are (the likelihood is) can be followed by one's choice of what is likely. For the restaurant, one of the Chances R as quoted above is that you'll return again, for me, it was "Chances R if you are reading this......"

I am so glad my very thoughtful son-in-law said, "We've got to go there,", because now I know, "I've got to go there!"

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Taking A Sunday Drive #37

♪ Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweeping down the plain....♪ Oklahoma was another one of our earlier destination states due to its proximity to Iowa. I had one specific destination the first time we went there - Heavener.

So I could see the Heavener Runestone - one of those (to me) fascinating bits of evidence of early Viking exploration of our country - eight runes carved on a huge 12 foot tall boulder around 700 A.D.
And from there to the Cherokee Heritage Center in Tahlequah.



Natural Falls State Park was a stop after leaving Tahlequah. It was late spring and cold, but still an interesting area.

One thing I notice about these older photos is how much they have faded in the years since they were taken. This was probably in the early 90's.







A later trip to Oklahoma was to Muskogee where we visited the Five Civilized Tribes Museum. (Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee [Creek] and Seminole.)

Across the Arkansas River is the Fort Gibson Stockade Historical Site. This is one of four early settlements in Oklahoma claiming to be 'the oldest'.

Of interest to me was a memorial to Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Arbuckle, the 7th Infantry Regiment leader who supervised the construction of the stockade in 1824. My friends, April & Bill have a son named Mat. I always thought Arbuckle was an unusual name and wondered if they are related to that long ago Matt. And if the Arbuckle Mountains of Oklahoma were named for or by that early military man. (They were.)

My nephew and his family have been living in the Tulsa area more than five years. He keeps posting beautiful nature pictures of Oklahoma. We keep saying we are going to make a trip down there to see them. I would like to see some of that natural beauty for myself. I'm thinking maybe this fall......

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Twerp Week or Twirp Dance?

Twerp/Twirp? Week/Dance? It's one of those random thoughts that popped into my mind upon awakening. I know it had something to do with those long ago high school days and a dance at the old Rec (short for recreation) was involved. But maybe I was thinking of the Y-Teen Tinsel Twirl?

First off, I was confusing the two terms. The dance wasn't for Twerps - those silly, annoying people - it was twirp, as in T.W.I.R.P. - The Woman Is Required to Pay. In other words, the customary man/woman (or in my day, guys/gals) roles were reversed. The woman asked the man out and paid for the meal/movie/dance, etc. It was a chance for the girl who never got asked out to take a chance and ask a boy to go to the dance with her.

Did our school hold a Twirp Dance or have a Twirp week? I didn't want to go through four years of diary entries to try and find if I had written about it. Ah, but I did have copies of our high school paper, The Smoke Signal. It wouldn't take long to look through those.

And there it was in the January 26, 1959 issue: Twirp Dance - "Friday night, January 16, that was a big night for the girls at CHS. Why? Because that was the night of the annual Y-Teen sponsored Twirp Dance held at the Rec. The feature of this particular dance is that the girls invite the boys".

I could remember one day perusing the old diaries I came across an entry where I had asked a boy to a dance and gotten turned down a few days later. Was it for that Twirp dance? Knowing when the dance was, I could go back and look it up in that year's diary. Nope. Not that time. Maybe it was for a Sadie Hawkin's dance which is also when the girls could ask the boys.

On the 16th of January, 1959, I wrote that Ron (my brother) took me to the basketball game with Clarinda. (We won.) And "Went to the Twirp dance, then we went to the Candy Kitchen and ate". I did not say if I danced with anyone at the Rec or who the 'we' was that went to the Candy Kitchen. Usually I was with two or three girlfriends. My brother graduated the previous year. Would he have gone to the Twirp dance with me? Obviously I did not have a good time or I would have recorded it all in my diary.

I didn't even record what I wore to the dance. It's possible I wore my red plaid, circle skirt and red sweater that I had worn to the Homecoming dance. But then I noticed that I had written on that date, "Got up at 6:45. Washed out my white sweater to wear to the dance tonight." But no mention of which skirt I wore. The following year (1960) on January 15, I wrote that we went to the "Spinsters' Dance". Was it renamed that? Or was I just being cute in my diary?

Twirp dances seem to have gotten started in the 50's. With the changes in what is socially acceptable, I doubt there is a need for a day or week when it is okay for a girl to ask a guy out, but in my day it just wasn't done - unless you had that dispensation. T.W.I.R.P.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Color My World

No, I have not picked up on the current coloring craze. That craze would make me crazy. I'm talking about the colorful new murals around town.

This one, completed last fall, is on the west side of the building at the basketball court in McKinley Park. You can see it while driving down the east side of Lake McKinley. Designed and painted by Creston art students, I'm sure the train pays homage to Creston's history as a railroad town.

This spring, the mural on the east side of the basketball courts was completed by the art students with the help of Tyler Downey. It was fun to see the progress as I drove past it daily on the way to the Y.

It was during that unusually hot spell last month that Tyler Downey and others painted this mural on the west wall of the Park Street railroad underpass near our home. I had to ask my niece if, with the same last name, Tyler was related to Carla. Remembering her artistic talents, I thought it was possible. Indeed, Tyler is her nephew. (For my few unrelated readers, Carla became part of my family after my sister died and my brother-in-law remarried. So not exactly my sister-in-law, but, sort of.)

The south end of this underpass mural. It didn't show well enough in the above photo and since the McKinley Park Farmers Market is such a big part of our summer.....

The other side of the underpass is a blank canvas with the exception of this motif. Creston will be an overnight stop on this year's RAGBRAI, thus the bicycle?
I thought Downey might be doing another mural for this side, but I see by his FB page he has gone back to Portland. (Creston is his hometown.)

The latest mural is along Adams Street west of downtown. My niece sees this all the time as she staffs the drive up window at the bank where she works.
I assumed this one was also by Tyler Downey, but the Creston Arts page enlightened me. The artist is Jordan Weber with design help from the CHS art students. Its bright colors and subject matter will welcome RAGBRAI riders to the downtown area on the 25th.

We've been to a couple displays in the Arts Gallery in the old depot building downtown, but I need to remember to check their schedule more often. I know I'd like the photography exhibits as well as some others. And I like that the Creston:Arts FB page is so informative about not only what is going on in Creston but also the surrounding area.